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Series / Nine: Nine Time Travels

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Nine, I said, nine time travels.

Nine: Nine Time Travels is a 2013 Korean Drama that ran for 20 episodes. Park Sun-woo is an anchor for a Korean news program who has fallen in love with a junior reporter for the news channel, Joo Min-young. However, Sun-woo's past has several tragedies. His father Chun-soo, a hospital director, was killed in a fire nearly 20 years ago. His mother is in a nursing home, with a severe case of dementia. And Sun-woo suspects Choi Jin-chul, his father's old partner, of setting the fire that killed Chun-soo. Jin-chul has since become a very rich businessman and chairman of a stem-cell research firm.

Then there's Sun-woo's brother Jung-woo, who has this crazy idea that he can travel back in time and fix what went wrong with his family. Jung-woo leaves Seoul for parts unknown, and one day Sun-woo gets word that his brother has been found dead in Nepal. Sun-woo goes to Nepal to claim his brother's body, and discovers that his brother was found still clutching an incense stick, one of nine in his possession. Eventually, after a couple of bizarre experiences with the incense sticks, Sun-woo discovers that his brother was right about time travel. The incense sticks are time-travel devices. However, they have two very important limitations:

  • Light one, and you go back in time exactly twenty years, down to the minute, no more and no less.
  • After you've traveled back 20 years, you can only stay there for about a half an hour, until the stick burns out. After that, you go back forward twenty years, down to the minute.

Sun-woo must use the incense sticks to fix what went wrong with his family, and defeat the evil Jin-chul. And he has to hurry, because of one more problem in his complicated life—he has terminal brain cancer, and has something like six months to live. And while all this is happening he and Min-young become lovers, but Sun-woo's time-hopping will complicate that part of his life as well.

Tropes in this series:

  • All for Nothing: Sun-woo works his butt off to get the incense sticks, go back in time 20 years, and get his father away from the hospital and the fire that killed him at 10 pm on Dec. 30, 1992. He succeeds, travels back to the end of 2012, and finds out that he postponed his father's death for exactly three hours.
  • Alternate Timeline: Has unintended consequences for Sun-woo. He finds out that his brother Jung-woo had a girlfriend 20 years ago, Yoo-jin, and their father forced him to break off the relationship, and Jung-woo hasn't been the same since, which is why he went off on a fatal trip to find the incense sticks. So Sun-woo travels back to get Jung-woo back together with Yoo-jin. It works, as Jung-woo is alive and well and happily married and a doctor, chief of surgery. But it turns out that Min-young is Yoo-jin's daughter from a previous marriage. So now not only is she no longer Sun-woo's lover, but she calls him "Uncle." Bummer.
  • Batter Up!: The big fight in episode #17 ends with Sun-woo, who has arrived in 1993 from 2013 wielding a bat, knocking Chang-min out with said bat.
  • Battle in the Rain: In episode #17, a knife-wielding Chang-min, acting on Jin-cheol's orders, attacks Sun-woo in an alley while it's pouring rain.
  • Book Ends: The series begins and ends with Jung-woo in the mountains in Nepal—see Gainax Ending below.
  • Child by Rape: Episode #15 uses a flashback-within-a-flashback to the late 1960s to reveal that this is how Jung-woo was conceived. Jin-cheol, enraged that Myung-hee was dumping him for Chun-soo, raped her.
  • Dénouement Episode: The plot threads are largely wrapped up in Episode #19, in which Sun-woo 1.0 dies after being trapped in 1993, and Jin-cheol is killed in a car wreck. The last episode is mostly going back over the romance between Sun-woo 2.0 (the 1993 version that encountered his future self), and Min-young—until the Gainax Ending (see below).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: So, how many time travels again?
  • Dutch Angle: Used with Jin-cheol when he finally figures out the time-traveling business.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the first alternate timeline, Jung-woo kills himself, ridden with guilt over all the harm his accidental killing of his father caused.
  • Flipping the Bird: Min-young does this to Sun-woo over a live satellite link after finding out that his weird marriage proposal—that they get married, but for only six months, tops—is because he's terminally ill.
  • Gainax Ending: The original version of Sun-woo—Sun-woo 1.0, let's say—dies back in 1993 when he gets Trapped in the Past and Jin-chul promptly kills him. But the alternate version of Sun-woo, the one that's 18 in 1993 and visited by his future self—Sun-woo 2.0—is still around. This Sun-woo has learned enough about the perils of time travel and altering the past that he elects to trust to fate, hoping that he'll make the right decisions. Although Sun-woo's time travels did in the end spare Jung-woo's life, Jung-woo winds up, in this new timeline, again drawn to Nepal and again looking for the incense sticks. The series ends with Jung-woo lying in the snow in the mountain pass, clutching an incense stick—a repeat of the opening scene. A shadow passes over him, just as in the opening scene. The camera then reveals that the shadow is being cast by an older, graying Sun-woo, presumably Sun-woo 2.0 having traveled back from 2033 to save his brother, indicating that the new version of Sun-woo didn't make the same mistakes and lived a long life.
    Sun-woo: [last line of series, greeting his brother] Long time, no see.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: During their Battle in the Rain, Chang-min stabs Sun-woo and is about to turn him into a pincushion, when Sun-woo luckily finds an empty beer bottle in the alley. He cracks it over Chang-min's head.
  • Hard Head: 18-year-old Sun-woo hits Chang-min in the head with a bottle. He gets up and keeps attacking. 38-year-old Sun-woo, having arrived from the future, whacks Chang-min in the head with a bat. Chang-min gets up again and keeps fighting. It takes another hit with the bat to knock Chang-min down for good.
  • Karaoke Box: A flashback in episode #12 reveals that in the original timeline, this is where Sun-woo met Min-young, at a party for the news channel's new hires.
  • Kubrick Stare: In episode #17, Chang-min flashes a few at 18-year-old Sun-woo after Sun-woo, fleeing from a knife attack, has managed to lock a glass door between himself and Chang-min.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Inverted. The argument that ended in the death of Chun-soo turned ugly when a scornful Chun-soo told Jung-woo that Jung-woo's real father is Choi Jin-chul.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Jung-woo drops this little truth bomb on Jin-chul in Episode 19. Jin-chul then wants to have a relationship with his son, which is pretty amazing, since ont only is Jung-woo a Child by Rape but Jin-chul had just gotten through telling he murdered Sun-woo in 1993.
  • My Future Self and Me: At the end of episode 2, Sun-woo calls his 20-years-younger self on the phone. Later they meet up in person. In episode #17, 38-year-old Sun-woo saves the life of 18-year-old Sun-woo (and obviously his own as well).
  • New Year Has Come: After 1992/1993 Han finds the pills that present-day Sun-woo dropped, the Ripple Effect leads to a cancer-free Sun-woo as of the stroke of midnight, New Year's 2013-14.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Chun-soo tried very hard to exercise it in 1992 when Jung-woo fell in love with a lower-class woman who already had a kid.
  • The Reveal: Episode 7 reveals that Park Chun-soo was not killed by Choi Jin-chul. Rather, Chun-soo died in a confrontation with his son, Jung-woo.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory:
    • Sort of. Sun-woo remembers everything that happened before, as for some reason does Han Young-hoon, Sun-woo's doctor and best friend who knows about his time-traveling incense sticks. But both Sun-woo and Young-hoon also get new memories after Sun-woo's actions change the time line.
    • Apparently everyone's memories are ultimately ripple-proof, as Min-young recovers her memories of her romance with Sun-woo after finding a note she wrote to him in the original timeline.
  • Romantic Rain: After Min-young recovers her memories of her romantic Nepal getaway with Sun-woo, and her relationship with him, he finds her at a playground where she used to hang out. It's raining. They have a dramatic kiss.
  • Scenery Porn: Some pretty impressive shots of the Himalayas.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Sun-woo's goal, to go back twenty years and save his father and his family.
  • The Slow Path: After 18-year-old Sun-woo receives the two remaining incense sticks from the police—they were found in the fire, and his fingerprints are on the case—he carefully puts them aside and leaves a note for his future self to find them 20 years later.
  • Split Screen: Many scenes feature events from 1992-3 and the events that are happening exactly 20 years later going on in the two halves of a split screen.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Used often to show both sides of a phone conversation.
  • Trapped in the Past: After using the last incense stick to save his 18-year-old self from Chang-min back in 1993, Sun-woo thinks he'll zip back to the present in time for his wedding—but he doesn't. He doesn't have to wonder about it for very long, though, as Jin-chul promptly murders him.
  • Vehicle Vanish: Just when Chang-min spots Sun-woo in episode 13, a family with a child carrying balloons passes by, and then Sun-woo is gone. Subverted when Chang-min spots Sun-woo diving into his car seconds after.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Sun-woo upchucks into the nearest toilet after getting the news about his brother.
  • Write Back to the Future: After 18-year-old Sun-woo figures out that 38-year-old Sun-woo's warning about someone dying in the future is about him—uh, them—he starts leaving notes to his future self, writing one on his (their?) guitar and scratching others on the walls of the house. 18-year-old Sun-woo wants his future self to come back and explain, but 38-year-old Sun-woo can't, as he left the last two incense sticks back in the past (specifically, at the scene of the fire that killed his father).
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Sun-woo doesn't have a lot of time to fix things.